Thanksgiving in Iraq, 2004

American Embassy, Baghdad, Iraq

Well I must admit they tried really hard. The mess hall staff here stayed late and came in early to decorate the building. They put forth quite an effort. Thanksgiving is indeed strange in a Muslim country with third country nationals manning the serving line. Surreal would be a better expression. Not your usual day.

Tough time for all of the troops, myself included. Thanksgiving is the time when thoughts turn to home and family. We miss the family the holiday spirit, the football (and the beer).

But it is not quite the same.

We do take great comfort in the outstanding support we have received from home. Box after box, week after week. A collective thank you from us all.

This week we received 6 huge boxes each filled with 20-30 individual soldier shoe boxes. They came from Eastside High School in Greenville, SC. The Key and Beta Clubs of Eastside with help from Chuck Baker's (USMA) daughter Caity and Jane Sherlock (their teacher) sent the items. Quite a treat for all, nice cards inside and even a few photos. From a school none of us attended, from children none of us know. That is the wonderful grassroots support there is.

With the holidays fast approaching, several have asked what else they can do for the troops and I tell you love, prayers, and support is all they ask for. But because you asked I'll add a list again at the bottom.

I have been extended here for another month (or two) so I am not leaving till Late January or February now. Christmas in Iraq too.

Some people ask about the guys in the field vs. the guys in the "rear" What do the guys in the "field" need.

Honest, more than any other war, there is no real "rear" or "field" here.

The patrols on "Route Irish" (most dangerous road in Iraq) are from Air Defense Artillery (retrained as Infantry). Many of the night foot patrols in Baghdad are by the Engineer Battalion The guards at my base are Army National Guard M1 tankers. The guys getting shot at the most may be Supply Sergeants and convoy truckers.

Almost everyone lives on secure base camps, no overnight field trips. 95%+ sleep in buildings or trailers. They all have reasonable access to the Post Exchange, phones, email, hot showers and good food.

So really not all that much difference in needs. There is no front or rear. Please include a card and email/snail mail so soldiers can say thank you. They also love photos of you.

Holiday cards, photos and stories of the everyday things at home are priceless. My favorite letters are about walking the dog, the kids holiday show and local sports, even if it is not my family it helps you know that life goes on.

Best wishes to all and enjoy the season!


My address is:

LTC Michael S. McGURK
APO AE 09316

If it's for just anyone:

Any Solider
c/o LTC Michael McGurk
APO AE 09316

And I will try to get them out.

You can also mail to:

Any Soldier
c/o LTC Robert P. Smith
APO AE 09316

"Powl" Smith is my roommate and will be here till May or later.

This is a list from the Internet and folks who have been here a few months.

Really we don't NEED anything other than your support.

I live on a base camp that more than meets basic needs. If you know of other soldiers more in harms way, send the package to them. However, nothing goes to waste as we also drop packages with the Chaplains.

Getting a package is a morale boost and saves us a trip to the store or writing home to our folks. We pretty much open and share everything with our tent mates, office crew, battle buddies. Pack it secure because the handling is rough but you don't have to over do it. It is no longer 100 degrees everyday but still if things might melt or spill, pack them in baggies or separate.

"Travel size" items work well compared to bulk size.

Common items folks ask for/about:

Snack food (all types: beef jerky, gum, chips, hard candy, raisins, nuts, jelly beans Dried Fruits Trail Mix, Peanuts, etc.)
Drink mix (Gatorade, crystal light, tang, Kool-Aid, etc.) Gourmet Coffee (ground, bold, strong not too much of the foo foo flavor stuff).

Toothpaste, Mouthwash, toothbrushes
Shaving cream/jel
Powdered Coffee Creamer, plain and flavored
Peanut Butter Crackers, Oreos, Pringles Potato Chips, Doritos, etc.
Lens Cleaners
Deodorants, Soap, Shampoo
Salami and/or Pepperoni Sticks
Cookies (Homemade)
Individual Pop-type Cans of Fruit
Hand Sanitizer
Magazines, DVD's, CD's, etc.
Batteries (most need AA)
PowerBars, energy bars or granola bars -- "any kind that won't melt,"
paper, pens and envelopes to write home to family, one pre-addressed
back to you.
foot powder/spray
black pens
Phone cards
blank DVD's or CD-R
Girl Scout Cookies (especially Thin Mints and Samoas)
granola (cereal and bars)
foot spray
duct tape (green, black or gray)

 Faux Turkey

The Line